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So you are a musician that would like to give back to your community in some way, but you have not become quite as successful as being able to give $3 million like Madonna.  Yet, that does not mean that you cannot be a philanthropist.  You can give your most valuable asset – your voice.

Charities often hold special events to attract new donors and/or show appreciation for current donors and volunteers.  Often the budgets for these events are very small with little or no allocation for performers.  These charitable events provide a perfect opportunity for you as a new artist to showcase your talents, hone your performance skills, and begin to generate some buzz about you.  Take advantage of these opportunities by offering to perform at the event without monetary compensation.  You will still want and need to be compensated, but you will not likely receive cash.

Confused??  The non-profit does not likely have the funds to pay you your typical booking fee.  They may have a few hundred dollars to pay your sound equipment fees, but even that may be a stretch.  However, what they do have is an ardent base of supporters with discretionary funds, which is exactly the target audience – people that love your music and will pay for it by buying concert tickets or downloading music- that you seek.  In lieu of cash payments, ask the nonprofit if they can do all of the following to highlight your contribution:

  • Promote your performance in all promotional materials advertising the event including newspaper ads, radio promos, invitations, event programs, etc.  (This creates buzz for your brand by exposing more people to you.)
  • Ask the event’s emcee to formally introduce you to the crowd and invite them to fill out performance feedback cards (Emcees at the event are generally local TV personalities, so this is an opportunity to make an acquaintance that could help you perform on local TV.)
  • Distribute performance feedback cards that solicit comments asking how the audience felt about your performance, what could be improved, what was excellent, and requests basic information from them such as name, email address, phone, etc. (This provides you with valuable information about how to improve your performance and also provides you with names and contact information for your fan base/mailing list.)
  • Ask if you can sell CD’s or merchandise at the event (This might be a tricky one with non-profits, who want their attendees to spend their money on the charity, but if you have the comment cards, you can and should follow up with guests after the event.)
  • Provide you with a donation receipt indicating that you donated your services for the evening (If the value of your services exceeds $250, then the organization is required by law to provide you with a donation receipt.  You value your contribution (at a fair market value which means what you would typically charge and receive) and can deduct that amount from your taxes for the year.)
  • Request acknowledgement for your donation on thank you announcements that the organization does on print ads and their website (Consumers feel better about brands that give back.  This warm, fuzzy feeling can extend to your band as well, if those consumers know that you donated services.)

By sharing your voice at these events, you can improve your performance skills and gain fans for your mailing list, which is the first step in becoming a musical philanthropist like Madonna or Bono.  Once you have been performing at a few benefits, word will spread that you are the “go to” act for entertainment.  At this point, you can begin to request a fee or begin to be more selective in your choice of events.

Catherine (Katie) Chapman, CFRE is a philanthropic consultant at Fullanthropy.  Fullanthropy works with entertainers and charities to create partnerships to generate awareness and revenue that benefit both the entertainer and the charity.  For more information about how Fullanthropy can work with you, please contact Katie at

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